A contemporary, pre-modern model for relations between the sexes

What is the traditional arrangement between the sexes? Some would look to what things were like in the 1950’s, say, where the man worked in an office or factory, and the woman raised children (until they went to compulsory schooling) and looked after the domestic sphere.

Is this really traditional? A cursory glance shows: it is not. The 1950’s model was a brief, transitionary phase, brought on by urbanization and industrialization, among other things. 50 years (or so) earlier, when most people farmed, instantiations of this sort of model were relatively rare. It would be curious to call something that was part of a brief, transitionary shift brought on by singular aspects of modernization ‘traditional’.

So what does a more traditional model look like? To go back to what was in play for thousands of years, that would be something like the farming model. Here, although there was division of roles between the sexes that emerged from more natural differences, both sexes were engaged in an endeavour which centred around the property. Both ‘worked’ and both spent significant time with the children, but in different roles.

What is a modern analogue to this? One answer: a family-owned business, operating out of the home, where the children are also involved.

One thought on “A contemporary, pre-modern model for relations between the sexes

  1. Bruce Charlton

    In The Origins of Virtue, Matt Ridley makes the comment that humans are one of few animal species where there is a natural division of labour – i.e. the sexes spontaneously have different spheres of economic activity. The current era of mixed workplaces is a novel experiment – http://faculty.law.wayne.edu/browne/Documents/Articles/Sex%20and%20Temperament_Browne.pdf – and the workplace is continuously changing so it is still too early to say whether or not the experiment has succeeded. It seems that the mixed workplace is inherently unstable and there is a tendency to be either essentially masculinized or (more usually) feminized (i.e. with the other sex, if present, regarded as an exception) – and these M or F workplaces end-up as quite different environments, regarded both from an economic or a managerial perspective.

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